Posts Tagged ‘Scotland


Les Oiseaux d’Ore

So … someone said she wanted a Golden Eagle for her birthday. Who am I to say no?

Golden Eagles are never easy on mainland Britain. I set expectations low. Who knew I was with an Eagle Whisperer? Three birds of various ages joined the four Buzzards and thirteen Ravens around the corpse of a Red Deer within 20 minutes. Job done.


For the love of Dolphins

Sailing through the Summer Isles off Ullapool last month we were on a glass mirror sea passing rocky outcrops punctuated with Arctic Terns. Young were pestering parents for their next meal … nothing in nature varies in that respect. As we pulled into a sea cave a Common Sandpiper fell from one of the ledges and proclaimed its objections to us being there with a diagnostic call and fluttering flight.

Moving further out from the coast the skipper sighted dolphins ahead. It wasn’t long before we were surrounded by playful, accommodating and very very beautiful Common Dolphins.

They are not there, then they are, then they are gone again. They bow ride and leap from the water. They watch you from under crystal clear water as they swim alongside. There’s something quite enigmatic and mysterious about Common Dolphins. I just love them.



Despite the massive reduction of Bonxies (up to 80%) we found a bathing group of Great Skuas this week in the heights of Scotland. Twenty-two birds eventually came together in a small lochan for a wash and brush up. The sighting prompted us to ponder what the collective noun should be for a group of skuas. We came up with ‘An attack’ of skuas.

I was in conversation with Simon Barnes about his wife’s lovely art installation at Cley. Cindy is very talented, if you are around please go and see it first-hand. I mentioned the sighting of the skuas to Simon and he said the following: ‘Surely an assault of bonxies. More violent and a punning hint of their environment’

What do you think?



When my daughter came down to Norfolk last month we took her up onto the local heath to show her adders. During the time we were looking I hung up a pheromone to attract an Emperor Moth. I placed it on the front of the vehicle but nothing came to the lure.

Later that week I took a group to Scotland. One of the regular places we visit for various birds is the head of the Findhorn Valley. A wonderfully evocative place of steep valley sides and craggy mountains.

We’d not been there longer than 30 minutes when an Emperor Moth started flirting with the front of the vehicle. Given the car had been washed since the beginning of the week and the lure was over 5 years old I was amazed. I still had the lure in the car. When I opened it up we had five or six of these beautiful moths flying around. Before we knew where we were we were surrounded by photographers! One landed and I managed to get a shot of it.


Brows and blows

After a busy few months Tania and I wanted to get away for a few days. So we made a plan. First stop Bempton to see the Black-browed Albatross. I’d seen the Sula Sgeir bird a decade or more ago but how could you say no to an Albatross in British waters. You just ‘have’ to go and see it. They are the bees knees of seabirds. A thought not shared by the Gannets who didn’t take to their larger cousin at all. He ousted a few off the cliffs to crash land among them. Tania had great views of the bird as she looked down on the bird circling below her.

First part of the plan completed we thought we’d carry on North and visit Kinghorn. Now this is the second time this year I’ve called at this pretty village just over the Forth from Edinburgh. I paid a visit at the end of May. The idea then was to see if the guests on the UK Mammal Tour could add Sei Whale to their lists. Despite it’s rarity in UK waters there had been one kicking around in the Firth of Forth for a few weeks. Sadly it wasn’t to be as the whale didn’t play ball. However, Tania and I thought it would be worth a revisit this week as the Sei Whale was still being seen with some regularity. It took some time, but eventually the third largest animal on the planet graced us with a ‘swim-past’. In fact two; once going up river and then a second as it returned East. Thanks to Ronnie Mackie for his invaluable help and great company in seeking out this addition to our British mammal list. The last time I saw one of these creatures it was amid the clear waters of a Chilean Fjord on the day Tania and I first met; a long way from a small seaside town on the East coast of Scotland.


A February Tour

Please take a look at the link it’s a good value excellent tour –


Sitting Tight

On the Scottish Tour I ran earlier this month we found a rather scruffy moulting Mountain Hare. At first given his apparent ear length I thought he was a Brown Hare. However he was on a pasture aside a rough upland moor and was standing his ground but as I got a closer he got a little edgy and went around the other side of a drumlin. As he did so he showed his pure white tail that lacks the dark streak of the Brown Hares we often see in Norfolk. His darkening pelage is a far cry from the all white beasts Tania and I photographed up in Scotland during January. Sadly the numbers of Mountain Hares are now much depleted from when I first started running the trips to Scotland 11 years ago.

Next years tours to Scotland in April are now advertised. Two trips to choose from. Details are here and here



On the Scottish Tour earlier this month one of the several key species we aim to see is Snow Bunting. They breed high in the Scottish mountains so their plumage is far different from the somewhat drab wintering birds we see in Norfolk. We found this skulking male in among a rock wall sheltering from the wind.

Next years tours to Scotland in April are now advertised. Two trips to choose from. Details are here and here


Swapping Continents

I arrived in Australia a couple of days after finishing the Southern Scotland Tour at the beginning of March. Having recovered from a bout of food poisoning acquired on the Cathay Pacific flight one of the first places Tania and I visited was the Werribee treatment plant. What a wonderful place for birds it is. For those that have never been imagine Titchwell RSPB … on steroids. It does however have the downfall of being wrapped up in colonial administration worthy of a banana republic. It reminded me of visiting a shrimp farm in Gambia thirty odd years ago when I had to offer everything I owned short of a pint of blood before I was allowed to enter. Anyways that’s a story for a different time. Having applied for a permit online to visit Werribee then travelled to pick up the gate key in a completely different location to the reserve itself, sat through a training induction for the third time in as many months, signed a disclosure document, offered up my ID and made a promise to change from my shorts into long trousers, I was on my way. … but not before being given the following parting shot by the lady administrator …. “I hope the Tufted Duck is still around for you” she said.

I had heard a Tufted Duck was floating around on one of the lagoons somewhere. Completely lost of course and way off it’s Eurasian home turf, it had even hit newspaper headlines here in Victoria. I reassured the lady that I would not be seeking any Tufted Ducks as I had in the previous few days been knee deep among them in the Scottish lowlands. I could see a moment of confusion on her face as she looked down at the Norfolk address I’d given her. I made her none the wiser as I picked up the gate key and fled the office. I can only conclude she thought Norfolk was perhaps in Scotland somewhere.

I was processing a few shots from the South Scotland Tour this week and I noticed this photo. A drake Tufted Duck, caught in the wind with a fraying hairstyle worthy of Donald Trump rather than Donald Duck. The Tuftie was sharing a pool with a rather secretive Green Winged Teal from America. It’s a small world… especially if you can fly.

Next years Southern Scotland Tour will be available for booking shortly.


Otter and otter

For the second time in as many weeks we came across a very sociable Otter on tour. This time it was north of the border on our Southern Scotland tour last weekend. Amid a flurry of Goosander we watched this enigmatic mammal catching and eating fish.

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Dec 2022


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